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Dining, Drinking, and Donut-Gramming for Valentine’s Day

By Matt Kirouac |

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                            Bar Pastoral

Bar Pastoral

It’s that time of year again. Love is in the air and Cupids are running rampant with bows and heart-shaped arrows. Valentine’s Day beckons, and with it comes one of the biggest dining out days of the year. From prix fixe menus to special chocolates, here’s a roundup of top spots for Valentine’s Day dining this year in Chicago.

Bad Wolf Coffee puts those formulaic Valentine’s Day sweets boxes to shame with a lineup of unique gift boxes all its own. Each box contains macarons in curry and creamsicle flavors, white chocolate-pink peppercorn truffles, dark chocolate Cointreau truffles, coconut rocher, tart cherry-pepita florentines, and triple chocolate cake. As an added heartwarming bonus, a portion of sales from the boxes will be donated to the Heirloom Foundation, which strives to partner chefs with communities in need to aid substance abuse.

If your partner is the yin to your yang, head to The Local Chicago for their “Opposites Attract”-inspired Valentine’s Day menu. The prix fixe affair is all about opposites, offering opposing menu choices for each course. Appetizers include sweet bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese, or spicy jumbo chicken drummettes. There are also carnivorous pork belly sliders and vegetarian winter tater tots, or even East Coast oysters and West Coast oysters. For entrees, select from surf (poached lobster tail) or turf (skirt steak), meatloaf or grilled filet. For dessert, there’s naughty (devil’s food cake with drunken berries) or nice (angel food cake with sweet cream), or black (dark chocolate mousse with macerated blackberries) and white (white chocolate mousse with meringues). Even the drink list has opposite-themed options, like New World vs. Old World wines, light beer vs. dark beer, and hot vs. cold cocktails.

Pastoral is keeping it casual with a la carte specials all weekend long. So while you should probably stay committed to your partner, you need not commit to a full-fledged tasting menu. Specials available February 13 through 15 include a cheese plate with almond palmier “hearts,” beef cheeks with butter roasted scallops, and Robiola Rochetta semi-freddo with pistachio brittle and strawberry curd. There are also cocktail specials like a Rose Gimlet and a Heart 2 Heart made with bourbon, lime, simple syrup, and Bells Two Hearted Ale.

One surefire way to razzle-dazzle your valentine is with an elaborate tasting menu that features some of the world’s most elite chocolate. To’ak Chocolate is a limited-edition, $260 Ecuadorian chocolate bar set to be featured in two dishes on EL Ideas’ tasting menus from February 14 through February 21. Said dishes are duck with To’ak Chocolate, limequat, and five spice, as well as sweet potato with To’ak Chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and olive oil.

For Valentine’s-goers who skew a tad more risqué, they’ll know that the 50 Shades of Grey movie comes out on the holiday. And to get in on the saucy fun, Tortoise Club is rewarding guests 21 and over who show their movie stub with Hummer cocktails made with espresso liqueur, rum, and vanilla ice cream. The dessert-drinks are available from February 14 through 20. 

Le Colonial reigns as one of Chicago’s most beautiful spots for upscale French-Vietnamese cuisine. The stunning space makes for a memorable Valentine’s Day experience, especially when the three-course holiday menu features items like shrimp- and chicken-studded beignets, Vietnamese bouillabaisse, grilled salmon over vermicelli noodles, and ginger-marinated roast duck with tamarind dipping sauce.

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a Donut-Gram. A fun idea for Valentine’s Day is Firecakes Donuts’ Donut-Grams, which are like telegrams but deep-fried and edible. Available February 12 through 15, Firecakes’ Donut-Grams allows customers to order donut deliveries for the lover of their choice, complete with a personal note, on the desired day. Strawberry-mascarpone donuts are on special just the for the holiday, but any donut is fair game as well. Plus, 50% of proceeds from Donut-Grams will go to Imerman Angels.

Then there’s Siena Tavern, one of River North’s hottest Italian spots. And when it comes to Valentine’s Day dining, the hotter the better. The restaurant is offering Valentine’s Day dishes as a la carte specials or as a prix fixe tasting. Oysters with caviar are an apt start to the meal, followed four courses with dishes like Burrata, lobster risotto or beet gnocchi, pan-seared branzino or bone-in Manhattan, and red velvet cake with dark chocolate gelato and candied rose. Booze supplements include bottles of Veuve Clicquot or Dom Perignon.

Bad Wolf Coffee
3422 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago
(773) 969-2346

The Local Chicago
198 E. Delaware Place, Chicago
(312) 280-8887

Bar Pastoral
2947 N Broadway Street, Chicago
(773) 472-4781

EL Ideas
2419 W. 14th Street, Chicago
(312) 226-8144

Tortoise Club
350 N. State Street, Chicago
(312) 755-1700

Le Colonial
937 N. Rush Street, Chicago
(312) 255-0088

Firecakes Donuts
68 W. Hubbard Street, Chicago
(312) 329-6500

Siena Tavern
51 W. Kinzie Street, Chicago
(312) 595-1322